Sleep and Metabolism

SLEEP AND METABOLIC SYNDROME - How Sleep Disorders Increase Weight and Health Risks

In recent years, physicians and researchers have observed a growing percentage of the population afflicted with “Metabolic Syndrome”. The condition, which currently affects roughly 25% of the US adult population, refers to a group of risk factors that occur together and increase chances of coronary artery disease, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, kidney disease, and early mortality. As more attention is given to ailment, its connections to sleep disorders are now being examined.

One of the greatest health risks to today’s population is obesity. Roughly one third of Americans are considered obese (Body Mass Index > 30) and that percentage is predicted to double by 2030. Obesity is the primary cause for development of metabolic syndrome and is also a primary risk factor for some sleep disorders. Sleep quality and quantity can greatly impact the elements that make up metabolic syndrome. Multiple studies have shown that Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a condition in which a sleeping person’s airway collapses repeatedly and causes disrupted slumber, leads to increased insulin resistance, stroke, heart attacks, and may contribute to weight gain.

Chronically shortened sleep duration may also wreck havoc with metabolism. Adults who sleep less than 6 hours per night have a 45% higher chance of having metabolic syndrome and for each hour less of sleep there is a .35 increase in BMI. Those with shortened sleep also have increased levels of the hormone Ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Coupled with daytime fatigue and a sedentary lifestyle, these influences can lead to obesity and increase the possibility of developing metabolic syndrome.

Fortunately, reversing metabolic syndrome is possible through lifestyle changes and medical intervention. Weight loss and exercise can help curb its effects and medications can be used to control blood sugar levels and heart disease. Properly treating sleep disorders can have dramatic effects on health in general and correcting the sleep disruptions caused by OSA may help to lessen the risks that become categorized as metabolic syndrome. If you are overweight, you may be at risk for this disorder. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how to address the problem through a process of lifestyle changes and medical treatment. Contact Oregon Sleep Associates to get screened for sleep disorders as part of this process. 


Obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to affect both physical and mental functions in the body. OSA can cause excessive fatigue, memory loss, and hinder cognition. CPAP therapy, the most commonly used treatment for OSA, may reverse some of these problems.

CPAP works by providing the user with a constant flow of room air delivered via a facial mask. The air splints open the wearer’s airway using positive pressure, thereby eliminating nighttime airflow restrictions. In a recent 6-month long multicenter study, over 1500 participants were randomly given either real or sham CPAP to gauge the device’s effectiveness in reducing neurocognitive problems caused by sleep apnea. 

The participants in the study were tested using a variety of methods to assess three areas of cognition: attention and psychomotor function, learning and memory, and executive and frontal-lobe function. The results of the study showed “improvement in the most sensitive measures of executive and frontal-lobe function for those with severe disease, which suggests the existence of a complex OSA-neurocognitive relationship” The research also indicates that CPAP users benefit from “a significantly greater ability to remain awake whether measured subjectively or objectively” than non-CPAP users who suffer from sleep apnea. 

If you or a loved one has untreated sleep apnea, it could be affecting your memory, reasoning and daytime energy levels. Seeking treatment using CPAP therapy could greatly improve the way you think and feel. To get tested for sleep disorders, contact the sleep specialists at Oregon Sleep Associates at 503-288-5201 or visit